WASHINGTON – A federal rule establishing labeling requirements for mechanically tenderized beef products is in effect.

Several foodborne illness outbreaks and product recalls that were linked to mechanically tenderized beef products were the impetus behind efforts to put labels on mechanically tenderized products. Public health groups urged the US Dept. of Agriculture to approve labels for mechanically tenderized beef products to inform consumers of steps they should take to safely handle and cook such products.

Under the final rule, labels must contain:

  • “Mechanically Tenderized” or, if needle tenderized the product can be described as “Needle Tenderized,” or if blade tenderized, the product can be described as “Blade Tenderized.”
  • The product name and the descriptive designation must be printed in a single easy-to-read type style and color and must appear on a single-color contrasting background. The print may appear in upper and lower case letters, with the lower case letters not smaller than one-third (1/3) the size of the largest letter, and with no intervening text between the identity of the meat and the descriptive designation.

Products exempt from requirements of the rule include non-intact beef products such as ground beef patties; products tenderized by pounding or cubing; and any beef product that has been fully cooked and “those destined for another Federal establishment to receive full lethality treatment.”

Corned beef and mechanically tenderized beef products that are less than 1/8-inch thick, such as beef bacon or carne asada, are exempt from enforcement of the final rule.